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The Lion Foundation Season of Romeo & Juliet

Auckland Theatre Company Media Release

The Lion Foundation Season of Romeo & Juliet


Brooke Williams and Mike Whalley pick up where Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio left off in ROMEO & JULIET as they bring Shakespeare’s greatest lovers to life on stage at the Maidment Theatre from July 22.

Stuart Devenie, Gareth Reeves, Geraldine Brophy, Peter Daube, Kip Chapman, Catherine Downes, Benjamin Farry, Dan Musgrove, Elena Stejko, Sam Bunkall complete the stellar line-up of first-class stage actors.

Romeo and Juliet live in a world where passions run high; a city torn apart by a bloody family feud. They should be mortal enemies. But they fall in love and marry in secret.

However their joy is short-lived. Juliet’s father has another future mapped out for his teenage daughter and Romeo’s fatal mistake sees their young lives and irresistible love spiral down to heart-breaking loss.

Shakespeare’s glorious and timeless classic vividly captures the beauty, intensity and ultimate fragility of young love in a hot-blooded and hostile world.

“If love hurts, young love hurts best”

Brooke Williams returns to Auckland Theatre Company for a fourth season in the role of Juliet. After making her debut with the company as Mary Warren in THE CRUCIBLE, Williams went on to play the child in THE PILLOWMAN, where she was painted bright green and nailed to a cross in an enactment of a grim fairy tale, and then the deranged gun toting student Molly Rivers in THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES.
Returning to New Zealand from Australia where he’s been pursuing his acting career, Mike Whalley follows up his popular debut with Auckland Theatre Company in SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER to play Romeo. After graduating from Toi Whakaari in 2005, Whalley was snapped up by Wellington’s Downstage Theatre and Taki Rua Theatre. His performance in THE CAPE earned him a Chapman Tripp theatre award in 2007.

“ROMEO AND JULIET belongs to our collective unconscious,” says director Willem Wassenaar.

“It provokes many associations and experiences for a wide range of audiences. As a director I am interested in using this knowledge of ROMEO AND JULIET as a tool in storytelling, I want the production to acknowledge this shared connection of company and audience; allowing us to delve further into the story.”

“ROMEO AND JULIET revolves around a society of the fortunate, imprisoned by a historical framework that teaches them to fear and hate their enemies. The source of this feud is unknown, but it is deeply rooted in people’s identities, they simply would not know who they were otherwise.

“The real question for Romeo and Juliet is: faced with this reality, would you throw away your belief system, your sense of identity and start from scratch? This journey of rediscovery is a scary ride and in the story of Romeo and Juliet it is a matter of life and death.

“The play’s real beauty lies in its extremes. In a world of adolescence and awakening, it’s all or nothing, life or death. When Benvolio revisits the events of Romeo and Juliet at the end, we come to realize and appreciate the couple’s huge courage, risk and vulnerability within their journey of transformation. What they do and are willing to give up for the sake (and mystery, uncertainty) of love, is heartfelt, honest and captivating.”

With boldy theatrical design by Andrew Foster, emotionally charged music and soundtrack by Thomas Press and Shakespeare’s hot blooded poetry, this is a Romeo and Juliet for here and now.

Chief Executive of The Lion Foundation, Phil Holden, adds:  “As one of New Zealand’s most widely recognised charitable trusts and long time supporter of the arts, The Lion Foundation is thrilled to help bring this exciting theatrical masterpiece to Auckland’s theatre lovers. It is particularly heartening that thousands of Auckland secondary students will see Romeo and Juliet, an experience will help develop the next generation of theatre lovers.”

Bookings can be made at the Maidment Theatre, 09 308 2383 or


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